The wait is over. Zack Snyder's Justice League is now streaming on HBO Max and other partner platforms across the globe. Snyder's 4-hour-long visionary cut has already received critical praise, with most agreeing on the fact that his version is "definitely superior" from Joss Whedon's theatrical cut we watched in 2017. Thanks to Zack's terrific approach towards establishing an understanding of DC characters, his version of Justice League served as a perfect origin story for all individual characters featured in the movie. It gave all heroes a glorious introduction, a backstory, and a purpose; in such a way, that's allegorical to Zack's perception of these characters - mythological beings at war with oneself.
Batman's Inception in the DCEU
But Zack Snyder's Justice League is a justice done to the most important character of the DCEU storyline, Batman. Zack's vision of the DCEU was first expanded with the 2016 film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A follow-up to Superman's origin story, the 2013 Man of Steel, Batman v Superman introduced Bruce Wayne without a solo film of his own, along with other characters such as Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, Alfred Pennyworth, and a glimpse of future League members - Aquaman, Flash, and Cyborg. And general audiences couldn't digest or understand it for the most part.
Earlier, people have witnessed multiple Batman origin stories. But Zack wanted a weary and old Bruce Wayne, whose presence and existence has already been established in his universe. He wanted his DCEU films, something the fans now dub the Snyderverse, to have a dynamic approach to tell DC stories - to have interconnected, unified, and ensemble films, corresponding with side-solo films focusing on each character. This way, Snyder would've created an approach towards shared cinematic franchises, quite different from the rival Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, his vision was prematurely judged, leading Warner Bros. to revise their plans for the DCEU, starting with reshooting Justice League.
Being DC's coolest character and most profitable property, Warner Bros. has invested a lot in Batman. Over the years, Batman featured in two different series, immortalizing the character among the audience. Hence, people were pretty much aware of his origin story. It was Superman with whom the studio was failing, especially after 2006's Superman Returns failed to generate hype around the character. With Man of Steel, Zack solved the studio's Superman problem, giving the character a darker and more "human-centric" origin, digging deeper into his psychology, personal battles, and struggles of being an outcast. Now it was time to do the same for Batman
A Take On Zack's Batman
Since Batman's origins were pretty much well-established, Zack decided to up the notch with his version of Gotham's vigilante. Previous versions of the character such as Keaton and Bale were shown to have faith in Gotham's good and kind, and hence they fought with morals and values, trying to find the root of the problems. But this incarnation of Batman, as played by Ben Affleck, is old and weary. He has been fighting crime in Gotham for over twenty years now and has received little or no success in eradicating evil. Gotham still breeds crime and Batman grows tired of living up to his high grounds and morals. He has lost his parents, and then has lost Robin, the Boy Wonder Bruce adopted to raise as his own.
The opening sequence of Batman v Superman, which introduced Bruce Wayne and metaphorically hinted at his transformation into Batman as he rises above the ground by a swirling vortex of bats was just amazing. It was one of the most fantastical opening sequences and visualized the character's transformation in alliance with him overcoming his fears, which in Batman's case - are bats.
Ben Affleck, whose casting was met with heavy criticism and even a change.org petition, was a perfect choice to play this old, hardened Batman. Ben's performance reeks faithlessness, powerlessness, loss, grief, failure, and a horrifying sense of vengeance and fear. Ironically, Ben's performance post the release of Zack Snyder's Justice League has gnarred nothing but praise. Everyone was earlier aware of a wise Bruce Wayne, who saw evil in crime and gave his life to defeat it to the roots. But Zack and Ben explored Bruce with a new take. This version of Batman told us what happens when a man. and Batman indeed is just a man - is exposed to so much violence and terror without succeeding in eradicating it. Ben's Bruce Wayne portrayed that anger and frustration, as well as his jaded mentality concerning his earlier methods of fighting crime.
This incarnation of the character fight to kill, giving no chance of redemption to the criminals he hunts. He brands them with his "symbol of justice". Bruce and Gotham have had a bad history with "clowns" and "exploding penguins", duping the morality of the town Batman has fought so long to keep intact. Hence, when he witnessed the destruction caused by an extraterrestrial war brought on Earth by Superman and Kryptonians, he gives up his conduct of right and wrong and decides to end Superman for good.
Joss Whedon's Justice League Just Defeated Batman's Planned Arc
The troubled production of Justice League after Zack Snyder's departure is no news. The studio had brought in Joss Whedon to complete Zack's film under strict guidelines from Warner Bros., which included a shorter run-time reduced to at max, two hours. This resulted in massive edits, extensive reshoots, and sequence cuts. Unfortunately, some of these sequences added enormous value to the character arcs, including that of Batman.
In Whedon's Justoce League, Batman was reduced to a mere recruiter of a team, who himself is unaware of his purpose. He is just the poster boy for the titular team, who, directionless, is trying to figure out how to get the band together. In Whedon's extensively reduced Justice League, Batman's Knightmare was fully ignored - a rather significant sequence that directly connects with his urgency to gather up these heroes and prepare for an imminent attack. On top of that, unnecessary jokes, ripping Batman of his stressed state of mind and cutting Bruce's struggle to restore hope and faith just undermined Ben Affleck's phenomenal performance and commitment to the role.
How Zack Snyder's Justice League Reincarnate Ben's Batman
Batman's Character Development: The best part about the Snyder Cut was that Zack had full creative control, allowing him to stretch the film's runtime to four hours. That meant he could give each character the proper introduction and deeper outlook he wanted; which he excelled at - especially in the case of Batman. In Zack Snyder's Justice League, Batman was the only major character whose character arc was being followed from a previous installment in the franchise, while the others were more or less in the first theatrical venture. But Batman had to be given up notch this time, and a Zack gave Ben's portrayal a significant room for development.
The film very closely focuses on Bruce Wayne struggling with fear of an impending invasion and his agitation of resolving the premonition he had in the previous film, gradually building his confidence in the team and restoring his faith in good. The film also hops between Bruce's guilt of failing Superman and his legacy, which, though often clouds his good judgment, the consistent tone of the film cleverly deals with these hops. And by the end, Bruce Wayne becomes the true Batman, an old but wise mentor to the team, which has to be ready for more coming threats.
Zack Snyder's Batman Seeks Redemption: The film begins with the death of Superman sequence from Batman v Superman, but this time from the perspective of Lois, Bruce, and Diana. As we see Bruce watching Superman sacrifice himself, he visibly sheds some tears for he knows he fought the guy he should've sided with the whole time. It is after this Batman takes responsibility to unite Earth's "defenders" and unite them to fight the coming invasion. Though Joss Whedon's cut of the film explored something of a similar subplot with Batman; however, the character's overwhelming guilt concerning Superman's demise and his growing frustration over uniting the team seemed baseless.
Also, Joss Whedon's take on Batman and Dian's argument over Superman's resurrection felt like lazy writing. Both individuals made no sense when defending their perspectives. Moreover, how Bruce Wayne planned on bringing Superman back was never acknowledged, apart from a small discussion on Mother Box's potential to regenerate life.
Snyder fixed the tension between Bruce and Diana with a simple sequence focusing on Cyborg. As Cyborg explains his origins and the power of Mother Box, the entire team collectively comes up with a hunch about Superman's resurrection using Mother Box's powers. Moreover, the opening of Snyder Cut established the greater impact of Superman's death. His death not only triggers the other Boxes and summon Steppenwolf, but it also pushes anarchist organizations to terrorize civilizations; signifying how hopeful people were with him being around. Given the impact of Superman's demise, Batman's guilt and inclination towards taking on the charging bull with a united league of superheroes seems justifiable.
It just makes all his efforts in recruiting, building an advanced-tech cargo aircraft, his research, and his fear of his Knightmare premonition more sensible. The sequences of Batman shedding his tears for Superman at his demise, then helping him come back to life, and in the end, supporting him set his new home makes Batman's journey to redemption highly impactful and impeccable.
Batman's Restoration of Faith: Zack Snyder's Justice League gave Batman the best completion arc, which Zack Snyder set up in Batman v Superman. In this film, he goes from a hopeless crime-fighting vigilante to a hopeful hero. The broken Batfleck here somehow finds faith again in his quest to put this team together and eventually becomes confident of Superman's arrival for the final battle, proudly proclaiming that it's "faith" he has been clinging to all this time. This restoration eventually comes into action when Batman fearlessly takes on Parademons, without thinking of his life.
He seems hopeful of his team and feels that he has somehow fulfilled his purpose by realizing the importance of unity and giving the world a new league of superheroes to rely on, thus, restoring people's faith in hope and good alongside his own. This marks the true completion of his story arc, which would've paved way for a new persona of Ben Affleck's Batman in the future films of DCEU, as envisioned by Zack Snyder in his planned five-picture arc.
Bruce Wayne Becomes Batman
In the final sequence of the film, Martian Manhunter visits Bruce, extending his help to Bruce's team against the coming war against Darkseid. Here, Martian Manhunter admits how Bruce has helped him realize his role on Earth and has prompted him to join the league. He even praises Bruce and tells him his parents would be proud of him, at which, Bruce smiles.
That one smile signifies Bruce finally becoming the dark knight the world needs. A proud and hopeful leader, who has brought together disoriented heroes together, and has made all of them commit to their responsibilities that come with their gifts. After a long time, he does not feel like a failure, and hence, uplifted himself from the losses of his past.
The Imperfection in the Perfect Story Arc
Zack Snyder's astonishing vision gives Batman an imperfect conclusion, by leaping forward in time to the Knightmare future. Here Batman finds himself teaming up with his archnemesis Joker, leading Joker to confront Bruce about the failures of his past. The Joker, true to his nature, plays with Batman's head, mocking him about how he has lost so many people, failing to save any of them. He even reminds Bruce of Robin's murder, claiming Batman was a coward to recruit a young boy to aide him, which led him to his untimely demise.
The sequence put Batman into a disgruntled scenario. He, for that moment, smartly subdues the Joker, but he is aware that he has failed to keep his promise of keeping the world a safer place with his team. However, yet, he is still committed to a plan to undo that world, and to do so, he has teamed up with the very man who took everything from him.
Zack Snyder's Justice League concludes a part of Batman's story arc while paving a potential new one for the character's future. There might be a few flaws in his character development, but as per Zack's plans for DCEU and that cliffhanger of an ending, it all world perfectly fine. Ben Affleck's performance gives us a satisfying revival of the character post-Christian Bale's take on Batman and finally proves that he is indeed a great choice for Bruce Wayne. By filling in all the gaps the theatrical cut left in Batman's representation, Zack Snyder's take on Gotham's vigilante supersedes the previous versions of the character in many ways.